FRONT PAGE: Zimbabwe opposition calls in agency help

Zimbabwe's main opposition party has called in global PR support to ensure the world's media stay focused on the election crisis gripping the country.

Mugabe: with Mbeki (left) this weekend
Mugabe: with Mbeki (left) this weekend

With the presidential election results still unpublished nearly three weeks after the ballot, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has turned to Fleishman-Hillard for help with international media relations.

The MDC is concerned that Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party is att­empting to fix the results of the election through a campaign of violence.

Three of Fleishman-Hillard's top UK practitioners - Kevin Bell, David Hart and new recruit Guto Harri - have spent the past week in Africa, helping to communicate these messages to the media. They are understood to be working alongside staff from the agency's Johannesburg office.

The consultants accompanied MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai this weekend as he met with South African president Thabo Mbeki in Johannesburg, before Mbeki went on to meet Mug­abe and declare that there was ‘no crisis in Zimbabwe'.

The consultants then went to the Zambian capital Lusaka, where southern African leaders were meeting.

In Lusaka, Fleishman-Hillard presided over a press conference in which the MDC reiterated its concerns about the continuing delay in making the results public and warned of Zanu-PF's widening campaign of violent int­imidation in rural areas.

This week, Fleishman-Hillard continued to brief foreign correspondents and broadcast media - including Sky News, which devoted significant airtime to the iss­ue on Monday.

Sky News correspondent Stuart Ramsay said he had been shown photographs of election results and paperwork from polling stations that were amassed by the MDC. The MDC said the evidence proved Tsvangirai had won the election. As PRWeek went to press, the crisis was due to be raised at a UN Sec­urity Council session.

Kevin Bell, regional president for the UK, Africa and the Middle East, confirmed the agency was working with the MDC.

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